Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom
his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
In Latin Vulgate, “Glory to God in the highest” is translated “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”
Why do you think the company of heavenly host appeared to praise God before the shepherds?
How do you picture the shepherds as the angels descended and began singing? What did they do? How did they feel?
Can you think of a time when you said, “I can’t believe that happened!”? What were you referring to? Was it something you could see or touch or hear?
Oh Father, thank you that Jesus happened. Here. On earth! Thank you that you came to be with us, Immanuel. Thank you for yet another reminder that Jesus isn’t a concept, but someone who happened, someone who occurred and came to pass. Lord, I want to be a person who sings, “Glory to God in the highest!” Glory to you, Lord, not to me. When your glory is revealed, let me be the first to sing your praise, to go and see, to stand in awe. Let this not just be a refrain I sing, but a life I live.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Caesar Augustus was the first emperor of Rome and ruled from 27 B.C. until 14 A.D. A census was taken in order to effectively tax all those living in the Roman Empire. Scholars believe Quirinius was in office for two terms – 6-4 B.C. and 6-9 A.D – and a census was taken during each. The prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that the Messiah would come from the line of David. (Jeremiah 23:5) Bethlehem was about 80 miles south of Nazareth.
Does the historical context that Luke gives hold any importance to you as you read this passage?
Consider what it would have been like for Mary and Joseph to travel 80 miles by foot and/or donkey in order to take part in the census. What would your response to such a directive have been? How would you have felt as you walked 80 miles?
Where would your thoughts take you as you walked mile upon mile, knowing that the child you were expecting was the long-awaited Messiah? What kinds of fears? Doubts?
Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the reminder that this is not a fairy tale, but that it happened in a real place, during a real time. Help me to remember, God, that Jesus was born into this very world that I live in, the same earth, the same sun and moon and stars. Help me to remember that Jesus is not a concept, a set of rules, a made-up character. Jesus happened in history and you used two human beings with hands and feet and fear like mine to carry out your purposes. I pray, Lord, that you would strengthen me for the assignment you have for me, that I can exercise strong faith and unbending trust to do everything you ask of me. Use my hands, my feet. Allay my fears. Settle my doubts. Rid me of my selfishness. Oh, Father, use me for your purposes in this world.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
Then they made signs to his father to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
The name “John” means “The Lord is gracious” or “The Lord shows grace.”
Why do you think it was important that Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son be named John?
In Luke 1:17 Zechariah was told that John would “bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God” and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” How might understanding or seeing God’s grace make us ready to turn our hearts toward him?
Can you identify the last time you were astonished or awed by an expression of God’s grace in your life? What was your response?
Father, let me see your grace. Keep my heart ready and free my tongue to praise you. If you need to shut my mouth and make me silent, do it. If you need to bring me low or break my heart, do it, Lord. Do whatever it takes if I turn away from you. Prepare the way by your grace for my return.